Written by Jim Lewis
We know you’ve heard it before – we’ve said it before, in this very space: The proposed Amtrak train station at West Main and Ann streets is going to be built, and it will be a boon to Middletown. Just be patient.
Yes, it’s taken longer than the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation had initially announced years ago – in fact, when construction finally starts in early 2016, Middletown Borough Council will have seen four council presidents come and go. But the project has grown from a modest platform and some stairs to a more ambitious plan that includes an extension of Emaus Street to West Main Street that would draw travelers and students in college-owned and private dorms at nearby Penn State Harrisburg into the borough’s downtown business district.
Also on tap, an addition revealed at an update of the project by PennDOT to council’s planning committee: A pedestrian bridge from the Penn State Harrisburg side of West Main over the busy roadway to the station area. That will ensure the safety of college students – big rail travelers – who want to cross the street to get to the station.
You can read more about the plan in our story about PennDOT’s update to borough officials. It begins on A1 of this issue.
Good things come to those who wait, and Middletown has waited for years for the new train station. In return for its patience, the borough is getting a project that will greatly benefit the town.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 June 2015 12:57
Written by Jim Lewis
The Middletown Area Historical Society’s annual Arts & Crafts Fair made a triumphant return to Hoffer Park on Saturday, June 13.
Moved to the smaller Swatara Ferry House property last year, the fair was a shadow of what it was when it was held at the larger, borough-owned Hoffer venue. This year included a car show, a baking contest and more. And its return to Hoffer couldn’t have come at a better time.
Not only does it help raise more money for the society, which has undertaken the formidable project of turning the Grosh House on the square into a museum of Middletown artifacts, but also restores the spirit of a town that has struggled to get through a crucial period where fiscal restraints and construction for significant water and sewer line replacement have eliminated, postponed or altered some community events.
With important infrastructure improvements made, and a downtown business district revitalization on the horizon, the mood around Middletown should brighten.
The Arts & Crafts Fair was an inspiring community project that shows what this town can do when people work together. The best part: It left the community eagerly believing it can do even better next year – it was that successful.
Congratulations, and thank you, to those who made it happen.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 June 2015 15:43
Written by Jim Lewis
It’s unlikely you would attend a high school graduation unless a son or daughter, nephew or niece, or perhaps the kid of a neighbor with whom you are close, is among those receiving a diploma. If you had attended the commencement ceremony for Middletown Area High School’s Class of 2015, you may have been moved – perhaps unexpectedly – by a number of things.
First, the Forum in Harrisburg, where the ceremony was held on Wednesday, June 3, was packed, and it’s a large venue. Parents, grandparents and other family members – even friends who had graduated from Middletown in years past – filled the place. The Class of 2015 wasn’t particularly large – “small but mighty’’ one commencement speaker called them, a class of 135 graduating seniors – but Middletown’s pride in its children certainly is great.
Second, the commencement’s speakers had really interesting things to say. Yes, we know the graduates are leaving the hallowed halls where they’ve formed bonds with friends, teachers and the school itself that will never be forgotten, and their future lies before them, and we wish them all luck in the world – but speakers offered more poignant statements about the gravity of what was happening that night.
Speaker Leigh Hurst, founder of the Middletown-based Feel Your Boobies Foundation, a breast cancer awareness organization, told her story about facing her fear: She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 33. Hurst, a 1988 Middletown graduate, felt a lump in her breast, received the startling news from her doctor and, to enlighten her friends, made a T-shirt for them that urged them to “feel your boobies’’ to catch cancer early. When she created a Web site that included the T-shirts, she received orders – to her surprise – from all over the country, and her foundation was born.
At her graduation ceremony nearly 30 years ago, “I never could have dreamed I had life experiences I could share with you tonight,’’ she told the Class of 2015.
Her advice to them about life, and what the future may hold: “It’s about what you do when your plans fall apart – it’s those moments that will shape your future,’’ Hurst told them.
Valedictorian John Ponnett III urged them to live a life that will be “a long, prolific novel,’’ though the uncertainty of what may happen next may be a bit scary. “My greatest hope is each of you faces your fear,’’ he said.
The crowd seemed to feel the message. When the graduates who were enlisting in the military were asked to stand and be recognized, they received a long ovation that grew louder and stronger with time. In a world that seems to have grown more volatile and dangerous, the graduates had begun to face their fears, and the crowd appreciated their bravery and dedication to their country.
Afterward, you could feel the excitement among grads, family and friends. The future can be scary, but full of promise and joy, too. You couldn’t walk through the crowd without feeling the weight of the moment. To everyone involved: Well played.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 June 2015 15:40
Written by Eric Wise
My grandfather, Charles Wise, hoped that he would have more time to enjoy golf when he retired from Bethlehem Steel in early 1984.
Pap loved having time for golf. He kept going golfing, and golf kept him going. I admire him for his dedication, and how it kept him healthy and moving after his working days ended.
He settled into a routine of going to bed early, gently complaining if neighbors were still working outside after 8 p.m. He rose early, and began his trek to the golf course in the dark. He sat in the clubhouse, drinking coffee until the sun peeked through, until he reckoned it was “light enough to hit.”
Four days a week, Monday to Thursday, Pap played Blue Mountain Golf Course in Fredericksburg. As he reached his mid-70s, he started taking a golf cart on Tuesdays – “Seniors’ Day” at the course. On these days, he played with the “old guys” who had recently retired. They were often 10 or 15 years younger than he was, but they wanted to ride in carts. So he gave in and took a cart on Tuesday. Other days, he walked.
Even though he could not play when the course was snow-covered, he enjoyed stepping out in the brisk air. “You can bounce the ball on the pond and right up to the green,” he liked to say.
As time went on, he started riding the cart every day.
One summer in the 1990s, he found his groove: He shot three holes-in-one. My uncle, also a regular golfer, gave him an engraved frame with a shot of him mid-swing. It reads “Mr. Hole-in-One.”
Despite his age, Pap had a keen eye for finding balls. He loved to play the course and take a look around for lost balls while he was waiting. He never golfed without his tools for pulling balls out of the water. It wasn’t unusual for him to find four or five during one walk over to the pond. He found so many that he went years – maybe 20 – without buying golf balls.
He taught me to golf, and we played many times over the years. I may have been his biggest challenge. First, I am a lefty, and second, I spent years playing baseball, prompting him to blurt out, “You came across like a baseball player again!” at my flailing attempts at the tee. When I did manage to clobber a ball for a decent drive, he would remind me that he was “just an old geezer.”
I once was playing with friends and hit a shot that went out of bounds. I told my group to forget it, a lost ball was no issue. They asked me if I had some unlimited supply of balls, and I told them for as often as I played, I did – any time I needed a few, Pap would send me home with three times as many as I needed.
Once, Pap got a flat tire and realized he had a problem. He opened his trunk and could not get to his spare. Beneath his golf bag, shoes and other gear were golf balls – lots of golf balls. He offered the balls to the driving range just to clear out his trunk. The range agreed, taking some 1,600 balls from his trunk. It didn’t matter to Pap. He had plenty.
He missed some time as he battled through some of the troubles that came with advancing age, and he missed more when his wife was so ill he had to take care of her.
After she died, he got himself back on the course. At first he did not play Fridays. For years, he had not played Fridays because that was when he and my grandmother got their groceries, and she had her hair fixed. Before long, he changed his mind. Five days a week he played. His buddies in the early morning group changed through the years, but he kept playing.
Five years after losing his wife, he spent a week in intensive care in the hospital following a serious bout with colon cancer. By then, he was 88. He was back on the course in six weeks or so. He played a round with me for a work-related event in the hot summer sun. He said it was fun. My colleagues marveled at his recovery and his putting.
I saw him when he couldn’t mow his lawn any more, and when he gave in and accepted that he might need a cane. That never stopped him from driving and putting, though.
He eventually started to slow down. Some days, Pap would play nine holes instead of a full round. Then in his 90s, he would play only a few holes. I told him to play what he could manage, take a break in the clubhouse and drive home for a nap if he needed it.
He enjoyed it, so he kept going to the golf course for about five holes. The morning crowd knew him there. Even though I would have expected nothing less, it was inspiring to know he was still perfecting his golf stroke.
So he shocked me last week when, at the age of 93, he said he was through. He cancelled his membership at Blue Mountain. “I just can’t do it,” he said.
His golf is going to be on television now.
But the golf clubs are still in his car. Just in case.
Eric Wise is a staff writer for the Press And Journal.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 June 2015 16:07
Written by Jim Lewis
Lower Dauphin’s softball team has enjoyed great success in recent years, but the Falcons should be particularly proud of the District 3 Class AAAA championship they won this season.
Great defense, timely hitting and an impressive performance by sophomore pitcher Ava Bottiglia led Lower Dauphin to a 3-1 extra-inning victory over a powerful Daniel Boone team in the title game on Thursday, May 28 at York College.
The Falcons got to the championship by beating Penn Manor, 7-2 in a semifinal game on Tuesday, May 26 at York College. Kaylee Stoner drove in five runs, going 2-for-4 at the plate.
It was Lower Dauphin’s third district title in eight years. The Falcons won the district title in 2007 and 2008.
Lower Dauphin emerged as the best in a tough field of teams.
The Falcons reached the state championship game last year, falling to Souderton to claim the silver medal. A planned celebration – a ride on a Hummelstown fire truck through the borough afterward – was cancelled because of a storm.
But the Falcons got their victory ride after beating Daniel Boone, a great celebration for an impressive season. And as of Tuesday, June 2, the season was still going – the Falcons faced Great Valley in the first round of this year’s PIAA championships.
Congratulations to Lower Dauphin and its successful softball program.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 June 2015 16:04